Masterclass on the Perfect Sales Call

I have always admired those who are experts in the chosen profession.

Whether that’s in the business world, entertainment, sport, movies or construction, watching a skilled individual do their job with confidence and proficiency is a thing of beauty. It just flows and they make it look and feel so easy, as if we all could do it - and we probably could, had we put in the hard work and hours of practice to get that accomplished.

In my world of sales management, I am generally on the selling side. Very occasionally I get to be on the other side of the transaction, the person buying the service, and recently I had the good fortune to have been giving a master class on how to sell by someone who was an expert in their profession, salesmanship.

At CompTIA we are exploring some options to develop our sales team and to ensure we are all maintaining our sales discipline and keeping to those good habits.

We got a lead from one of my peers and set up a call to discuss their services. The organization we were speaking with was Habits at Work and we were fortunate to have the CEO Andrew Sykes attend the meeting.

Prior to the call we got an agenda from Andrew, which in itself is not unusual but how often have you not received an agenda for a meeting? Increasingly I am seeing less and less structure to meetings with agendas unfortunately becoming a rare thing.

The agenda gave us a great insight to what we were about to experience. It set out the purpose of the meeting, the benefit to having the meeting, the attendees, all with their names hyperlinked to their LinkedIn profiles.

Andrew had done his research prior to the call and knew his audience. The agenda also broke down the meeting into time slots, identifying what we were going to discuss. Finally, it had next steps, a next meeting date and feedback. The process was very much aligned to my post “A super system for the salesman” .

It was clear this was shaping up to be an interesting call.

When we joined the call, Andrew opened up with confidence and charisma making us feel relaxed and had us buying into him as a person long before we even discussed his company.

Before we moved onto the business element of the call, he asked us to give him feedback after the call. He wanted us to tell him what he did well but also asked us to give him feedback on what he didn’t do so well. It was the first time anyone has ever asked me for that type of feedback after a sales call or any call or meeting for that matter.

It was truly refreshing, and gave us an insight into his thought process. He definitely had a growth mindset. We gave him his feedback on what he did well but we really struggled to find anything he didn’t do so well.

As you can imagine Andrew had us eating out of his hand and the call went extremely well, exactly as he would have imagined it. His next steps were to set up another meeting at his office where we could continue our discussions. We finished the call and as promised, he followed up within the hour with the action items.

A few days later one of my colleagues received a delivery to her office.

It had three books, authored by Andrew, one for each one of us on the call. Inside each book was a hand written note thanking us for our time on the call.

Oh, and the book’s title, “The 11th Habit: Design Your Company Culture to Foster the Habits of High Performance”.

Now, very few of us have written a book on improving performance in the workplace but sending a hand written note after a call or meeting is a great way to build a relationship and should be standard practice. Sadly, like agendas, hand written notes are no longer a regular occurrence but they can be a clever way of  differentiating you from all the competition.

Andrew was a true expert in his field, and it was a pleasure to be sold to in that manner. He was slick, polished and accomplished.

I am not in the field selling as much as I used to be but when I am, I am going to make sure I adhere to all those disciplines and habits that make the experience so much better for everyone.

John McGlinchey - CompTIAJohn McGlinchey

John McGlinchey is the Global Sales Leader, Executive Vice President of  CompTIA


Jeffrey Gitomer's 10 Sales Tips

My last blog “A Super System for the Salesman” defined a system for successful selling when in front of a potential prospect or customer.

Although using the APPCOM system will give you that focus and structure, there are also a set of principles and strategies that will move you from that hum-drum mediocre sales career into a more supercharged career.

I absolutely love Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling.

It has become my bible and he covers some of these topics and much more in his book. I would advise strongly that if you are interested in becoming a very successful sales person or even if you are veteran, then buy this book.

As with everything in life there is no quick fix or magic potion here, just a series of common sense values and standards that have been used by successful sales people for generations.

  1. Make mistakes, take risks and be brave – I recently reposted a blog by Lisa Blackwell, “The Power of Mistakes”. In it she talks about the value of making mistakes and how most people learn more from their mistakes than their successes. It’s a great opportunity to learn and develop. We all have made mistakes and I can certainly list myself as having made many. It’s important that we approach mistakes and risk from a growth mindset. In one of my previous blogs “Everything is Possible with a Growth Mindset” I talk about how a growth mindset makes you concerned with improving whereas a fixed mindset makes you concerned about how you will be judged.


  1. Nothing happens until you take action or do something – You may be the most intelligent person on the planet, have the best idea or plan, be super prepared, but all of that is useless unless you take action. If you wait for something or someone else to act, it is likely that you will be unsuccessful, or you will be unable to control the consequences. Take action even if you have only 80% of your plan ready. Come back for the other 20% later.


  1. Believe you can – It all starts out with belief and having that positive attitude. It’s amazing how often sales people make bold positive affirmations publicly and yet privately they are completely the opposite.


  1. Create the environment - Your work environment impacts your mood, drive and performance. If you work in a dreary office setting with unfriendly workers, its likely you won't feel motivated or confident to speak up. That's why creating a productive work environment is critical to your overall success.


  1. Surround yourself with like minded individuals – In order to successfully transform our careers, we often have to transform our lives and have the support of the people whom we choose to have around us. Be smart and know that a good work environment starts with hiring the right people. Make sure your group are professional and team players. The same idea translates to those who are already in the office. When employees work with toxic workers, they are more likely to become toxic themselves. Do not tolerate corporate terrorists.


  1. Always be learning – Almost every salesperson, or at least every salesperson over age 40, has seen the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. In it Alec Baldwin plays a “tough love” sales manager brought in to motivate the office. One of his favorite mantras is “Always Be Closing”. In other words, a salesperson is never off the clock. We should apply the same concept to learning. Whether you're right out of college or a seasoned business professional, there are always new things to learn and ways to improve ourselves. Education never stops. Take responsibility for your own destiny.


  1. Plan for the new day the night before - If you plan your next day the night before you’ll be amazed at how much your overall productivity skyrockets. When you plan ahead for the next day, you will set yourself up for everything to run smoothly.  You’ll be able to make the most of your day, your day will be calmer, more productive and you won’t spend time getting frustrated or wasting your valuable time. More importantly, you’ll end up having way more time. Plan your goals and make a list of what you want to achieve. What do you need to read or know before the day starts?


  1. Be the go-to person for answers for your prospects and customers – The more valuable you are the more you will get rewarded. Give first, become known as a resource not a salesperson. Your value is linked to your knowledge and your willingness to help others. Have the answers your customers and prospects need. The more you can solve problems, the easier path you will have to sales success. Prospects do not want facts, they want answers. In order to have those answers, you must have superior knowledge about what you do.


  1. Stay alert for opportunities - As you move through your day today, remember that opportunities for growth and movement in new directions are always all around you. Because many of us are so "outcome-focused" and goal-driven, our minds are tuned more toward getting things done, than staying open to receiving those seeds of opportunity that surround us. It is vital for us to sustain a positive attitude. Attitude allows you to see the possibilities when opportunity strikes—because it often shows up in the form of adversity.


  1. Set your goal and stay on track. Do not give up - Success is not always achieved by the fastest, the smartest, the richest or even by the most capable people out there. Life has taught me that success goes to anyone that simply doesn’t quit. Action will help you achieve your goals. Inaction is a dream crusher. Own your goal, don’t talk about what you are going to do, talk about how you are going to make it happen.

As you see none of this is complicated but it’s amazing how few people are willing to execute these principals.

Happy Selling!

John McGlinchey - CompTIAJohn McGlinchey

John McGlinchey is the Executive Vice President of Global Certification for CompTIA


A super system for the salesman!

When I first started life as a professional sales person, I wasn’t that good!

Some might say I am still not that good!!

I stumbled around trying to find my way and had limited success. Although I had most of the pieces of the sales process in my arsenal, my sales calls lacked structure and focus. I didn’t have a system. I was primarily self-taught, so I suppose that was hardly surprising.

In 1990, I changed jobs and my new employer put me on a training course that changed the way I sold to this day. The fact that twenty-seven years later, I still remember the system, is testimony to the effectiveness of this process.

Most people starting out in sales are unsuccessful for one or two reasons, either they don’t work hard enough or they lack a system or process. The system I learned twenty-seven years ago, was instrumental in giving me that focus and will almost certainly ensure greater success for you.

The APPCOM System

Whether on the phone, face to face or social selling, the APPCOM cycle is as relevant today as it was all those years ago.

A – Acceptance

The first few seconds of any sales call or meeting are vital.

A Forbes article suggests that we make major decisions about each other in the first seven seconds we meet. Therefore, it is vital that we ensure that the person we are meeting gets the right impression.

Are we trustworthy, likeable, someone they can do business with?

Prepare beforehand, ensure that your opening comments should not be canned, and instead engage in a short discussion that will succeed in “breaking the ice”.

P - Purpose

Probably the most important part of the call or meeting, is to know why you are there.

It is vital at this point that you are direct and make them aware of exactly why you wanted to meet.

Something like “I want to discuss your requirements for our consultancy services and if I can satisfy your needs, I will be asking you for your business at the end of the meeting”.

PMO (Primary Meeting Objective)

Before the meeting you must set out your primary objective.

What do you want the customer to agree to? Signing the contract?  Introduce you to someone else?

What is the main action item that you want as a result of the meeting and write it down before entering the meeting.

SMO (Secondary Meeting Objective)

What is the minimum acceptable objective?

Perhaps agree to another meeting. Again, write it down prior to entering the meeting.

P - Probing

In order to define a need or a requirement a sales person needs to probe to find out more about the business or organization.

These are questions about their business, the organisation structure, what is working, what is not, what are the pain points?

It needs to be a mix of “open questions” and “closed questions” which allows you to fully explore all opportunities.

Before advancing onto the next stage in the process, it is vital that you find an approach or connection that will allow you to present your solution.

C- Consulting

This is your moment to present your organization and solution, so the outcome from your probing questions are key to the entire cycle.

You need to be clear about the most important points you will want to cover in the presentation - what are they?

What are the areas that you want to highlight that solve some of the pain points of the organization?

Every customer is different and their requirements are different so your presentation should differ customer to customer.

O - Overcoming Objections

It is inevitable that there will be objections and you should welcome them.

Do not take them personally. It’s an indication that the buyer is engaged and is thinking about your proposition.

Four really good steps for overcoming objections are:

  1. Listen Fully to the Objection
  2. Understand the Objection Completely
  3. Respond Properly
  4. Confirm You've Satisfied the Objection

M - Motivating to Act

Remember the PMO and SMO from the purpose stage - This is where you determine if you have achieved your primary or secondary objectives.

What is it that you want to ask the customer to commit to?

If your primary objective was to obtain the business and you have overcome all their objections, make sure to ask for the business.

Following the APPCOM cycle will provide so much structure and focus to your sales meetings - and the really cool thing is that it doesn’t just apply to sales meetings.

Whether you are meeting with your Operations, HR, Finance department or even on your first date, use the APPCOM cycle!!

Happy Selling!!

John McGlinchey - CompTIAJohn McGlinchey

John McGlinchey is the Executive Vice President of Global Certification for CompTIA


Sales: When the unexpected happens, will you be ready?

Those pleasant surprises, whether in our personal lives or our careers, when life presents an opportunity, why do they happen and what role does luck play? A Roman philosopher once said “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Being prepared is the key.

In almost all the sales job interviews I have conducted, I always ask the candidate, “Are you a lucky person?” Not the most common question in an interviewer’s question bank, however, the answer will tell me a lot about the prospective candidate. Do they go into a tailspin or they are confident in their answer? Either way it is always interesting.

Thomas Jefferson must have had a salesperson in mind when he said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Work hard and the unexpected opportunities for success will find you.

Recent research carried out by Joël Le Bon, Why the Best Salespeople Get So Lucky , explores the notion of “provoked luck” and the unexpected events that come about when our behavior as sales people is maximized to react to potential opportunities.

Le Bon’s research found that the belief in luck seems to boost confidence and self-assurance, thereby helping experienced sales professionals remain optimistic in the face of setbacks.  Belief in luck also helps the inexperienced salesperson in overcoming uncertainty and fear of failure. These factors are critical in helping salespeople maintain motivation and job satisfaction. Confidence and assurance are also critical when starting your career in sales. For sales managers it can reduce attrition and therefore decrease recruitment costs.

For the young or new salesperson, who may be struggling, the best advice for getting through the initial wave of despair is to have a firm belief in luck — not the luck of the random windfall, but the kind of provoked luck that truly helps increase the odds of success.

If you apply the theory about hard work to your selling, the “lucky” sales opportunities will present themselves. The important question is, will you be prepared to capitalize on your luck and turn the opportunity into an order?

It would be inconceivable to think that you would have done all the hard work, invest the time and effort to create some luck and then be unable to take advantage of it. Do you know your products, have you the expertise and the business insight to help the unexpected prospect, the one whose requirements are likely to be slightly outside your comfort zone? If you do, it will quickly allow the prospect to gather the information they need to make a fast and favorable decision.

Unfortunately we can’t account for luck in our sales pipeline or sales plans, but you can count on doing your job to the best of your ability. Build your well-defined sales process and consistently deliver day after day. Follow up your leads, know your customers, add value and good things will happen. Then embrace your luck when it appears.

Oh, and by the way, the best answer to my interview question is, “You create your own luck.

Copyright 2015 John McGlinchey.  All Rights Reserved.

Sales: From Sandbagging to Motivating

What’s the best way to compensate and motivate your sales team?

Whether you’re a manager or a sales professional yourself, I’ll bet you have some thoughts on the matter.

This month’s Harvard Business Review offers up a fresh take that I wish I could’ve benefited from when I first started out.Read more